Facebook responded in a blog post Friday to criticism from former top executives that said the site is harmful to people.
The social media giant’s rebuttal wasn’t that convincing in saying social media’s impact on mental health depends on how it is used.
Facebook’s founding president Sean Parker stated in an interview last month that the platform was purposely created to be addictive.
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?,'” Parker told Axios. “And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.”
Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook vice president, said Tuesday, “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
Without mentioning these comments, Facebook responded in a blog post entitled, “Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?”
The post was written by David Ginsberg, Facebook’s director of research, and Moira Burke, a research scientist at the social media site.
“According to the research, it really comes down to how you use the technology. For example, on social media, you can passively scroll through posts, much like watching TV, or actively interact with friends — messaging and commenting on each other’s posts,” Ginsberg and Burke wrote. “Just like in person, interacting with people you care about can be beneficial, while simply watching others from the sidelines may make you feel worse.”
The Facebook blog noted that a a University of California, Davis and Yale University study that “found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average in a survey.”
On the other hand, the two Facebook employees wrote, “A study we conducted with Robert Kraut at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who sent or received more messages, comments and Timeline posts reported improvements in social support, depression and loneliness.”
Facebook is also rolling out new features on the site designed to improve user experience.
One is called “Take a Break, which gives people more centralized control over when they see their ex on Facebook” and “Snooze, which gives people the option to hide a person, page or group for 30 days, without having to permanently unfollow or unfriend them.”
The blog post seemed to respond to Parker’s remark that “God only knows what [Facebook] doing to our children’s brains.”
“We know that people are concerned about how technology affects our attention spans and relationships, as well as how it affects children in the long run. We agree these are critically important questions, and we all have a lot more to learn,” Ginsberg and Burke wrote. “That’s why we recently pledged $1 million toward research to better understand the relationship between media technologies, youth development and well-being.”